Can Ultrasound Technology Help us See?

Submitted by amandacarlson on Sat, 04/16/2022 - 12:30

It has been projected that by 2029, the majority of age related eye diseases will be retinal degenerative diseases, which causes progressive vision loss. Technology could be the answer- A new research study at USC is looking into the use of Ultrasound to stimulate retinas of the blind. An ultrasound uses sound waves in order to produce an image. It is often used to produce an image of a developing baby inside the mother. This technology can be modified to stimulate vision.

The image below shows an image of a developing baby inside the mother's womb, created by ultrasound technology. 


The patient would wear a device over the eye where sound waves would hit the retina and stimulate vision. This works because the neurons of the retina are stimulated by pressure, because they have mechanoreceptors, which are mechanically (pressure) activated channels. When sound waves hit the retina, they are causing pressure onto the mechanoreceptors, which will then lead to an image produced. 

This study has been using rats to test this technology. They found that these sound waves can be focused so that the rat's brain picks up a similar pattern as the pattern of the image. Researchers measured the visual acuity of the rat by looking at the rat's visual cortex of the brain with electrode arrays.

The future of this study will look at non-human primates, and ultimately conduct human clinical trails. They are hoping to improve precision of the device and to have the technology be installed in a contact lens for people to easily wear.